The World Restaurant Awards, held on February 18 at the former stock exchange in Paris, has been criticized as not living up to its goals of inclusivity. However, in all fairness, it should be noted that even one of the founders of the event himself admitted as much. Since I have not seen this reported elsewhere and the information was cut from my own article for Eater, I feel I should include co-founder Andrea Petrini’s comments to me here.
Speaking with an admirable frankness, Petrini said after the ceremony that “a few things could be better.” Unprompted, and to the obvious distress of the PR rep sitting beside him, he said the winners were “too Eurocentric. Hopefully next year we will open up a bigger picture.”
The ceremony may have fallen victim to its own hype and the resulting high expectations. Billed by its organizers as being the first televised restaurant award, attended by “stars of stage and screen,” neither circumstance came to be. In the end, it was neither televised nor star-studded (other than an impressive list of internationally known chefs). In the aftermath of much recent criticism of restaurant awards as being too insular — always recognizing the same white male European chefs — it aimed to be more inclusive of women and chefs of diverse cultural backgrounds.
Disappointingly, among the list of 18 winners, 11 (61 percent) were European. The only African winner was for the top award, Restaurant of the Year, which went to South Africa’s Wolfgat (also the winner in the Off-Map Destination award), whose chef is, through no fault of his own, a white guy. Two awards went to Asia, and only one each to a winner in North America (L.A.’s Vespertine for Atmosphere) and South America (Brazil’s Mocoto in the No Reservations Required category). A final award went to American journalist Lisa Abend for an article in Fool Magazine. (See full list below.)
Still, given that Petrini was immediately willing to confront some of the shortfalls of this year’s awards, there may yet be hope that future WRAs will come closer to fulfilling their promise.
Restaurant of the Year – Wolfgat, Paternoster, South Africa
Arrival of the Year – Inua, Tokyo, Japan
Original Thinking – Le Clarence, Paris, France
Off-Map Destination – Wolfgat, Paternoster, South Africa
No Reservations Required – Mocoto, Sao Paolo, Brazil
House Special –Lido 84’s Cacio e Pepe “en vessie,” Lombardy, Italy
Forward Drinking – Mugaritz, San Sebastian, Spain
Event of the Year – Refugee Food Festival, worldwide, France
Ethical Thinking – Refettorio (Food For Soul), various locations, Italy
Enduring Classic – La Mère Brazier, Lyon, France
Collaboration of the Year – Paradiso x Gortnanain Farm, Cork, Ireland
Atmosphere – Vespertine, Los Angeles, United States
Tweezer-Free Kitchen of the Year – Bo.Lan, Bangkok,Thailand
Trolley of the Year – Ballymaloe House, Cork, Ireland
Long-Form Journalism – Lisa Abend, Fool Magazine “The Food Circus”
Red-Wine Serving Restaurant – Noble Rot, London, United Kingdom
Tattoo-Free Chef of the Year – Alain Ducasse, Paris, France
Instagram Account of the Year – @alain_passard, Paris, France